Italian actress Monica Bellucci, the star of an upcoming film by renowned film director Emir Kusturica, says she's excited. She's excited to play a Serb, excited to act in the Serbian language, and excited simply to physically be in Serbia.
"It's my first time," the actress enthused this weekend to a crowd of Balkan journalists.
There was just one problem. Bellucci wasn't in Serbia, but in Republika Srpska -- the largely autonomous Serbian entity that is part of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Some outsiders might forgive Bellucci for confusing the two.
The Serb Republic, a cantankerous component of ethnically mixed Bosnia, has consistently looked to Serbia as its cultural and ethnic homeland. Its irascible president, Milorad Dodik, has frequently threatened to pursue a full secession from Bosnia and recently ruffled feathers
in Belgrade by offering to resettle Kosovo Serbs on his territory.
But Bellucci's geographical gaffe still sent a brief ripple through the politically sensitive audience.
Kusturica -- himself a Bosnian Serb and a close acquaintance of Dodik's -- quickly corrected the actress. Bellucci, who had already softened the Banja Luka crowd with praise for their "very charming" president, hastily apologized, then departed for the real Serbia, where she and Kusturica were attending the Kuestendorf film festival.
The shooting of the new Kusturica film, called "Love and War," is set to begin in Trebinje -- that's in Republika Srpska -- in May. Kusturica, who twice took home the Palme d'Or for "Underground" and "When Father Was Away on Business," has suggested he may play the male lead against Bellucci.
-- Daisy Sindelar